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The Tales Behind World War I Postcards

In this postcard you can see an artist’s interpretation of “flechettes”, or steel rods acting as arrows, falling from the sky.

A number of vintage postcards from the era of WWI give us insight into the thoughts of the people living through the war. Some are insightful and some are a little ridiculous, showing the rumors surrounding battle.

One of the more science fiction-y postcards emerged from the invention of tanks. Before many had even seen the things, artists drew what they thought the tanks actually looked like, making for amusing illustrations.

The drawings were probably influenced by this gem from The Times: “the gratifying fact seems to be, that our inventors have not hesitated boldly to tread unbeaten paths…unearthly monsters eased in steel, spitting fire, and crawling laboriously but unceaselessly over trenches, barbed wire, and shell craters, which, had they been conceived by imaginative novelists, would have been regarded fantastical.”

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Notice the pincers on the front.

Another WWI postcard shows an account of a popular legend, which tells the story of St. George and an army of medieval English bowmen appearing in the sky during battle and shooting spectral arrows at the Germans. In later stories the bowmen became angels, and people often heard through the grapevine about soldiers seeing angels on the field “with their own eyes”.

This inspired this postcard, featuring art by W. H. Margetson:

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“The Angels of Mons”

Another war story surrounded by rumor involved zeppelins. Rumors in the British Isles claimed that there was a secret German base nearby that flew over towns at night. While this rumor was dismissed, another zeppelin event did occur that later showed up on a postcard. Zeppelin SL20 was seen in the sky and pilots climbed their planes into the sky to shoot it down. Soon, the zeppelin caught fire and fell to the ground.

An unknown artist depicted the event, showing the moment when the flaming mass fell out of the sky, surrounded by spotlights and glimpses of surrounding planes. The moment is frozen on this postcard:

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These are just a few of the postcards that give glimpses into the tales surrounding WWI. There are many more out there to keep your eyes open for!

Have you ever ran into vintage postcards that give great snapshots of moments in history? Let us know in the comments!

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